ISLAMABAD - In a rare show of courage, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan Friday issued a warning to the top hierarchy of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) over its slow pace of investigations into mega-corruption scandals, saying it should be shut down if it was not ready to stop corruption.

The minister gave a 90-day deadline to the FIA for completion of investigations into mega corruption scandals, including EOBI (Employees Old-age Benefits Institution) scam, TDAP (Trade Development Authority of Pakistan) scandal, ETPB (Evacuee Trust Property Board) fraud, irregularities in construction of Benazir Bhutto International Airport and wrongdoings in Pakistan State Oil (PSO) and PIA. The FIA was also strictly directed to catch the big fish involved in corruption and pursue their cases in the courts.

Chairing a high-level meeting at the Ministry of Interior about the performance of FIA, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan expressed his annoyance over the progress of the federal government’s premier probe agency in completing investigations into mega corruption scandals. He issued a rare warning to the agency, saying it should be closed down if its officers were not serious in checking fraud in the country. “Fulfil your responsibilities or stop this drama and close down the FIA,” he said. We should not befool the masses as the agency is busy in nabbing vulnerable members of the society and is not ready to nab influential people.

The meeting decided to activate the legal wing of the FIA to pursue different corruption cases in the courts and hold a separate meeting with the attorney general of Pakistan in this regard. The decision was taken after the minister pointed out that the persons involved in corruption scams were getting bails from the courts.

Addressing the top baboos of the FIA, Nisar said their political affiliations did not make any difference. “I only expect from you to ensure justice and curb corruption,” he said. “Since this government came into power, no one from the ministry or I myself ever influenced the FIA for transfers/postings that was a common practice in previous regimes,” he said.

Nisar deplored one of the best officers having good repute was deputed in the FIA while he was in the office of the interior minister, but all gave no results. “The FIA unlike past is not a political machine. In addition, PML-N has not made it a political body, but there is no change,” he lamented. He revealed three meetings were held with the FIA officers to increase the number of mega corruption cases, but no performance could be seen. “What is the use of your being honest if you are not performing well?” he asked the FIA officers.

The chair said 64 FIA officials who had been found involved in corrupt practices were shortlisted earlier, and it was decided that these would not be given lucrative postings. “But today many of them are enjoying good postings,” he said, adding some of them got relief from courts.

“The inquiries are being changed from one officer to another without taking me on board. The FIA is going slow without any reason and files are going missing from its offices,” he kept on saying. Nisar warned the officers and said, “Tell me whether you can expel corrupt officials from the FIA.” The minister expressed his serious reservations over the way the agency was conducting investigations into the EOBI scam and said it looked the FIA wanted to cover this corruption. All the accused involved in the corruption of billions of rupees were getting bails one by one, he said.

The minister said those involved in murder and drug trafficking cases were brought back to the country through exchange of offenders’ treaty, but they secured release here. He gave the example of Ibrahim Koko, a drug convict, who was brought back to the country through this treaty despite the fact that he was a Burmese national. “The corruption cases would not be sidelined under my nose,” he made it clear to the FIA.

Later, FIA Additional Director General Khalid Qureshi, giving briefing on the agency’s performance, told the meeting that it had arrested 1,200 proclaimed offenders during the first 14 months of this government that was higher than the total number of those arrested in previous five years. He revealed 11,500 cases were pending in different courts. FIA Punjab Director Dr Usman Anwar told the meeting that the agency recovered Rs 6 billion in the first year of this government, which was the highest recovery as compared with the previous regime.

The chair directed the agency to move a summary regarding payment of share to FIA officers from the money recovered in corruption cases, adding it should be equal to that being paid to NAB officers. It was also directed that 64 officials found in corrupt practices would not be given any posting in future.